Tonight the President addressed a nation that is scared and broken. The terrorism and gun violence that Hollywood has spent years portraying have changed residence from the fictional movie screens to our television screens. Actors and actresses no longer make us feel thankful that it’s just a movie. Instead news anchors are holding us down as our faces are slapped with the reality of today’s world. Tonight, I arranged all of the tasks I’ve procrastinated all weekend to be sure that I could focus on the President’s address. I wanted to hear him give a clear plan for how we will get guns off the street and defeat terrorism. He spoke forcefully and passionately, but as Wolf Blitzer began speaking, I kept thinking, “Wolf! Shut up! Surely he’s not finished. I think he’s about to tell us to bring our assault rifles to local authorities or risk imprisonment!” Alas, the POTUS was really finished.
I was irritated, but then I put myself in his shoes. (I hope they’re comfortable and a women’s size 8!) As I dug a little deeper into my reaction, I started to think about the intricacies and scope of terrorism and guns. My political fire is fueled mostly by domestic, social issues, so I quickly realized that I had NO CLUE what we need to do to fight terrorism. What the President did, however, was assure me that he is navigating us through these waters. He reminded me of what America is founded upon. As I continued my Sunday night rituals, 4 minutes in to my hair deep conditioning, I began to think of President Obama as our (Americans collectively) daddy. Now, I know that 87% of my real life friends are cussing me out and screaming that there’s no way that Obama is their creepy uncle, much less their daddy. But either quit reading or hang with me, my fellow Americans.
It has been my experience that many children who idolize their parents grow up to be adults who are shocked to their core when they learn that their parents have been up to some shady business on their pedestals. I feel fortunate that each year I get older and become more inspired and in awe of the people that my parents are. Stereotypically, Southern girls see their Daddy as their hero and believe he can fix any problem. My dad is my hero, and he can fix most problems. What I have learned over the last 6 years, is that he can’t fix EVERY problem, but he can lead and support us as we learn to live with the problem. President Obama can’t magically fix this country, but he can lead us and support us in growing stronger.
There are gaping black holes in my memory of this grief journey. But there are some memories that are so clear, I can smell the smells from certain moments. The day Molly died, I’ll never forget getting off of the elevator at the hospital, and seeing Daddy waiting on me. He was wearing his taupe vest that he still wears, a plaid shirt, jeans, and his Crocs. (God love him.) He pulled me in, wrapped his arms around me, and I felt his tear on my shoulder. I could smell his Clubman hair tonic. The feel of his embrace and the scent of his potions threw me back to every other embrace we’d shared. That scent was there when we found out I wouldn’t need hearing aids. That scent was there when he came to get me from school in 6th grade to tell me that Mom’s breast biopsy was clear. It was there when I hugged him after I introduced him as my high school commencement speaker. It was there when he told me that my dog Lucy had died. It was there when he hugged me before every surgery. That scent, and his embrace, had always meant that things were okay. Things were okay, because he was there, and he is my protector. Tonight, President Obama spoke from the Oval Office. I’ve been in the Oval Office, but I don’t remember the smell. I do remember thinking, “This is where I’ve seen presidents speak. This is where they are Presidential!” This evening, President Obama was presidential and Daddy-like. He spoke to us from a symbolic place.
An hour or so later, my family was standing around Molly’s ICU bed. I remember looking at my dad, the strongest and happiest man I’ve ever known. There aren’t adjectives to describe the sight I saw. It was counter to everything I knew about him. I distinctly remember thinking, “What the hell, Daddy? You can fix any problem. You fix EVERYONE’S problems. Fix this now!!!!!” It’s sort of what I was thinking about President Obama tonight as he spoke.
That thought floated in and out of my mind for weeks in the aftermath of Molly’s death. I probably even voiced it to him. (Sorry, Dad. Way to kick a man and throw a snake on him when he’s down.) Dad couldn’t fix the problem. What he did, even in the midst of his own agony, was help me learn how to manage. He sat with me and basically wrote papers for my grad school class. He took me to the doctor when I was sick. He held my hand as I wailed. He poured me wine and listened to me scream obscenities. He sent me to Vegas. He told me he loved me. He cried. He told me how deeply he hurt too. He told me that we had to put shoes on. He even put them on for me. He reminded me that I was strong. That’s what the President did tonight. He showed that he was angry. This is his country too. He told of ways we can cope and try to begin to solve the problem. He reminded us that Americans are united, not divisive.
One thing that I remember Daddy saying from the beginning is that we only have each other. That we needed each other. With his guidance, we have learned to help each other through this grief journey. We support each other. We let each other cry. We encourage each other. We accept each other where we are each day in our grief. He’s reminded us of who we are as a family and what we believe. The President did that tonight. He reminded us that Americans bind together in tragedy. It would have been easy for my family to divide and lay blame. Each of us would most assuredly have imploded if we hadn’t have hunkered down, linked arms, and trudged through the mud together. America has to do the same.
Maybe you didn’t vote for President Obama. He’s not who you would have chosen. For the next 13 months, he’s our President. He’s who we elected to, “be our daddy.” The great majority of people can’t choose who their Daddy is. That’s up to your Mom. So pretend that the people who voted for him are your Mom. (Okay, that’s weird.) if I could choose a Daddy, I’d choose mine 999,999,999 times over. (The billionth time, I’d have chosen Charlie Gibson because he’s the second love of my Mom’s life.)
Terrorism is a lot like grief. It paralyzes you. It’s complicated. It’s difficult to predict. It doesn’t end. There’s no clear answer. In my grief, my dad remained my protector. But he became my compass, my sounding board, my safety. America needs to rest on the protector of our nation and constitution to do the same.
When it comes to politics, kids have the market cornered on radical, open conversations. Despite hearing words to the contrary from their parents at home, most kids are enamored with the President because he’s the President. In times like this, we must too. I’m not saying we worship him, but we honor the office and the officeholder as the leader of our country. He can’t fix it. He can guide us until a new Daddy (or Mama) comes to take his place. “Freedom is more powerful than fear.”
More than meat loves salt,